The Incel’s MacGuffin

The Farmer’s Wife (Alfred Hitchcock, 1928)

Over the years I bought various Alfred Hitchcock boxsets and this one brings together most of his surviving silent films. I’ve caught Number Seventeen, The Manxman and The Ring on the big screen, and enjoyed, but I’ve been slow in catching up with the rest.

The Farmer’s Wife is a romcom, of sorts, though it seems odd that a genre so loving of dialogue has intertitles — and of course this was play first. It’s got a vein of black humour and is a little, well, incel, in tone.

Samuel Sweetland (Jameson Thomas) has been widowed and is left alone after his daughter marries. Eventually he decides to remarry and draws up a list of potential runners and riders, who he proposes to in turn. Of course, seasoned viewers are likely to be taking a look at his maid, Minta (Lillian Hall-Davis), as a more suitable candidate, but we are distracted by the comic performance of his handyman, Churdles Ash (Gordon Harker).

Predictably, the wooing goes about as badly as you’d expect and Sweetland repeatedly spurns the women that minutes ago he was singing the praises of. “The trouble with you is, you are too fond of dressing your mutton lamb fashion,” he tells the Postmistress. Those who reject him aren’t all that, it turns out.

There is a happy ending, which he doesn’t frankly deserve. I’m not sure you’d know it was a Hitchcock — there are some fun subjective crossfades and some exterior shots, I think of Dartmoor.

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